In a trail-blazing move, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday, took steps to repeal the law awarding pensions to former governors and their deputies.
Presenting a budget estimate of N1.155 trillion for the 2021 fiscal year to the state House of Assembly, he announced that he would present an executive bill to repeal the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007).
The bill provides for payment of pensions and other entitlements to former governors and their deputies
Going by the proposed bill, former governors, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC); Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; and Sanwo-Olu’s immediate past predecessor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, and their deputies, would be stopped from receiving pensions.
Sanwo-Olu becomes the second governor in the country to demonstrate serious intention to repeal existing pension provisions for former governors. Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State recently took similar steps.
In the budget proposal, Sanwo-Olu told the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, and members of the House that to keep the costs of governance low and to signal selflessness in public service, he would send an Executive Bill to the House for the repeal of the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007), which provides for payment of pension and other entitlements to former governors and their deputies.
He argued that with dwindling revenues and inflationary growth rates, “we need to come up with innovative ways of keeping the cost of governance at a minimum and engender a spirit of selflessness in public service.
BUT some stakeholders in the state received the governor’s plan with doubts. They expressed skepticism over Sanwo-Olu’s capability to implement such a bill, especially through legislators they accused of being stooges of one of the persons that will be affected by the repeal.
Among those that reacted to the planned repeal were governorship candidates in the 2019 election in the state: Mr. Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi of the then Action Democratic Party (ADP), who is now back to the PDP.
Others are former deputy governor, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, National Publicity Secretary of the ADP, Mr. Adelaja Adeoye, and a former Minister of Works, Senator Seye Ogunlewe.
The proposed 2021 appropriation bill is N234.5 billion higher than the 2020 budget after it was reduced. It is, however, lesser than the initial 2020 budget of N1.68 trillion by N53.5 billion.
Giving the breakdown, Sanwo-Olu said the 2021 Appropriation Bill has a total revenue projection of N962.528 billion and a total Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of N795, 744 billion, adding that the budget has a capital expenditure of 703.272 billion and recurrent expenditure of N451.750 billion. He said it would focus on youth employment, security, youth engagement, and social work, among others.
He noted that it had become expedient to leverage the state’s developmental efforts by focusing on sectors with job-creating potential like agriculture, construction, technology, and security.
“Consequently, for the agricultural sector, our food security plan has a cumulative budget of N22.21 billion while we are committing a cumulative budgetary provision of N311.43 billion to infrastructure: this will cover direct intervention through the ministries of works and infrastructure, waterfront, transportation, judiciary, our schools and seed capital of N15 billion for the Rebuild Lagos Trust Fund.”
He added that in line with the government’s urgent need to light up Lagos, the state would launch a set of initiatives in the energy sector to ensure the state economy is supported by power.
“To this, we have committed a total of N32.58billion in the 2021 budget,” he said.
The governor also said the 2021 Appropriation Bill targets the restoration of economic balance as the state navigates its way out of the negative impact of both the pandemic and the destruction of public assets following the END SARS protest hijack.
“A pivotal crux of the 2021 budget will be the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture among our people. In light of this, Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) will be strengthened because their activities help to facilitate socio-economic advancement.”
He said the budget was also inspired by the need to consolidate gains in the technology sector for accelerated economic growth and job creation, focus on job and wealth creation, and security of life and property.
On security, the governor said his government would not just increase the size of the Neighbourhood Watch personnel across the state but would ensure their training to cope with extant challenges.
REACTING to the plan to stop ex-governors’ pensions, Gbadamosi, who is the current candidate of the PDP for the Lagos East senatorial bye-election coming up soon, described Sanwo-Olu’s intention as a populist gesture to deceive the people of the state who were miffed with the governor over alleged mishandling of the recent #EndSARS protests championed by youths.
Gbadamosi said: “The ruling APC is an extremist party. This intention will not see the light of the day. Even if Sanwo-Olu is sincere, which I doubt, the Assembly members may not do justice to such a bill till 2023.”
Gbadamosi also argued the governor could not deprive people, who had served, of their entitlement to pensions, saying he had to repeal the law first.
Ggbadamosi feared the Assembly could not be trusted, alleging that it is an appendage of Tinubu.
But Ogunlewe held a different view from Gbadamosi, saying, “Sanwo-Olu’s intention is a good and courageous move and he must be congratulated for it. The governor is facing the reality of the several court judgments against the existing pension laws for governors. If he is not serious, Sanwo-Olu would not have taken the decision in the first place.”
Ojikutu, who lamented that she and Jakande had gone to court to challenge the existing pension laws and received favourable judgment that was not enforced, said she was in doubt about the sincere intention of the governor.
Similarly, Adeoye accused the government of presenting a Greek Gift to buy the goodwill of the people of Lagos State, saying: “Sanwo-Olu is just trying to redeem his image with the aim to appear as if he is an independent governor after his numerous errors in the management of the #EndSARS protests.”
Agbaje said citizens of the state were waiting to see what Sanwo-Olu would use to replace the pension laws he intends to abolish.
“It will not be right to deprive people their right but he can amend the law,” he said.